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illustration: Regan Dunnick
Vanishing Act
My transportation rep informed me that our driver had gone to the New York warehouse only to be told that our crates weren't there. Somehow, some way, the entire shipment had disappeared into thin air.
Plan A
Back in the day, if someone gave you their word, it meant something. But nowadays, many people's word is little more than lip service. This truth was driven home to me when I managed a marketing meeting in New York.

As the director of marketing for a small medical-device company in Florida, I handle the planning and logistics of the myriad surgical trade shows and conferences the firm attends. The start and end dates for these events are often very close together. So I typically need to ship multiple crates together on the inbound side and redirect various pieces of the shipment to different locations on the outbound.

So it was with much deliberation and careful planning that I made arrangements to ship a Pelican crate full of exhibitry along with a separate crate housing a 10-by-10-foot banner to a five-day meeting happening in New York. Since the meeting was in a hotel that couldn't receive and store crates, I had to ship everything to an advance warehouse. I'd handled this type of situation before, but the outbound pickup would require a bit more planning on my part.

After the show, most of our exhibiting components would go back to our Florida warehouse, but the fabric banner would go on to another show, or more specifically to an advance warehouse prior to that event. So while our Florida-bound shipment would be handled by a traditional shipping company, our trade show logistics firm would transport the banner from New York to the upcoming show that would take place in Las Vegas.

For good measure, I contacted management for the New York show as well as its convention-services firm to ensure that the pickup location after the show was the same as the inbound address. Both assured me ‐ in writing ‐ that the addresses were identical. So off to the show I went.

Thankfully, everything arrived as expected, setup went smoothly, and the meeting was a huge success for our firm. However, the last day of the meeting, which happened to be a Sunday, a convention-services rep distributed a flier to all exhibitors that explained that a nearby street fair was blocking the hotel's shipping bay. At the end of Sunday, our crates were supposed to have been picked up at the hotel and delivered to the advance warehouse for Monday pickup by our transportation carrier. But due to the street fair, crates wouldn't be leaving the hotel until Monday, so warehouse pickup would start on Tuesday. Luckily, my logistics firm had anticipated this delay and had already scheduled our pickup for Tuesday. But again, just to double and triple check, I verbally confirmed with both show management and convention services that the Tuesday pickup would be from the same warehouse to which the inbound shipments were sent. With a slight roll of their eyes, they both verified that everything would ship from the same address.

My fears extinguished, I broke down the exhibit, carefully labeled each piece of our shipment, and headed back to the Sunshine State. In fact, I felt so secure that all was well that I took a comp day on Monday. When I got to the office on Tuesday, I spent most of the day catching up on emails, and after work I headed to the gym for a quick workout. But I was only 15 minutes in when my phone rang. It was my rep from the logistics firm. She informed me that the company's driver had gone to the New York warehouse only to be told that our crates weren't there. Somehow, some way, the entire shipment had vanished, and by now the convention-services office was closed for the day.

Plan B
Since there was little I could do at the time, I told the logistics rep I would call convention services in the morning, figure out where the crates were, and contact her to reschedule pickup. We still had a bit of time before the banner had to reach the advance warehouse for the next show, so I wasn't freaking out just yet.

The following morning I called a convention-services rep stationed at the warehouse, but she had no idea where any of my crates were. In fact, her only answer was, "Maybe they're in New Jersey. Who knows?"

I immediately dug out my notes from the show and found the name and number of the convention-services rep I had spoken to on site. I left a voicemail with him, and then I fired off countless emails to anyone and everyone involved with the show or its transportation services. Finally, a rep from convention services called back ‐ only to inform me that my crates were in New Jersey. "What are they doing in New Jersey?" I barked. "Before exhibitors left the show," he informed me, "we explained that given the street fair, shipments would go out Tuesday from New Jersey." My head was spinning. Not only had they not explained that the shipments would be moved to New Jersey, but two different people had given me their word that the pickup location was the same as the inbound address.

Despite my protests, nobody would cop to the fact that they'd misinformed me. So I gave up, took down the address of the New Jersey warehouse, and provided this information to my shipping firm. A few hours later, I received a pickup confirmation for the crates heading back to my office. Reassured, I breathed a sigh of relief. But not long after that I got a call from the driver attempting to pick up the one critical crate headed to the next show. Apparently, reps at the New Jersey warehouse had no idea where the crate was, and they suggested that it might have been taken back to the New York warehouse.

To say I was livid is to say that the 2016 presidential election was a tad bit unusual. I immediately got on the phone and called every convention-services rep I knew hoping to track down the crate. Finally, one of them called to inform me that the crate was indeed in New York. "Are you 1,000-percent sure?" I stammered. "As in, would you stake your reputation and everything you own on the fact that this crate is indeed where you say it is?" He answered in the affirmative, so I called our logistics company to arrange pickup. But given all the time that had elapsed, the driver wasn't able to reach the address again until the next morning.

Thankfully, around 9 a.m. Wednesday I finally received confirmation that the crate was on its way to the next warehouse. So I guess it just goes to show that sometimes no amount of checking and rechecking can ensure smooth sailing. Rather, you always need to be ready to roll with the punches ‐ no matter what promises everyone else gives you.

— Michele Vongerichten, director of marketing and communications, Keller Medical Inc., Stuart, FL

Send your Plan B exhibiting experiences to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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